Being new to Alumapalooza, we really didn’t know what to expect when we finally reached Jackson Center, Ohio on Tuesday. Thankfully there were many orange tie-dyed-shirt-clad volunteers to help direct us to the field that would become our home for the next 5 days. I felt the electricity of excitement when they said “You can park right there and welcome home!” The Airstream factory is on 40 acres of land in this tiny town, and they generously open up the unused fields so 200 dedicated Airstreamers can attend talks by both experts and everyday enthusiasts on topics from cooking given the constraints of an Airstream kitchen, the history of the company and a primer for those in attendance that are brand new to this fantastic group.
On Day 1, the program of events is a little shorter than the rest of the week because everyone’s still arriving. We just made it in time for Happy Hour, but were pretty busy hooking up to the provided water hose and 3 amp power to make it. We did attend the Great Ideas talk by John Irwin, a regular contributor to Airstream Life magazine and all around DIY handyman. I’ll call this talk interesting — hopefully it gave some folks ideas for changes they can make in their own trailers. My recommendation for this type of talk would be to break it down into several different talks divided up by trailer model. Sitting through an hour long talk on modifications made to his Classic didn’t really help me with my 2010 International. Obviously he has a wealth of information on modifications and I think he could really help more people by breaking it down into several different sessions.
Our favorite presentation on Day 2 was from the Service Guys, Tim Maxwell and Dave Schuman. Dave has been with the service department at Airstream since 1971 and both of them together seemed to have every answer, recommendation and fix-it involving any and all service issues on all Airstream models. Today’s session covered maintenance and care for the outside. We were introduced to some new products like SD-20, but definitely appreciated the recipes involving non-toxic household items like olive oil and vinegar. Bob from our old WBCCI club in Illinois used the olive oil technique to polish up his trailer and it worked great, although his wife thought the place smelled like dinner.
My most anticipated event of Day 2 was the Airstream Factory tour. I’m a fan of tours (this week we’ve already done Graceland and Jim Beam), and to see the process of building an Airstream was very exciting to us! The tour was ok — not what I expected, but the fun of being there is the point, I guess. We talked to a few people afterwards and everyone felt pretty similar — the tour definitely needs some help.
Know Before You Go
If you travel to the birthplace of your dear little (or big) Airstream, be aware that what you get on the tour is probably not what you’re expecting.
- You can NOT take photos.
- You cant really hear anything the tour guide says. And I use the word tour guide loosely. Our guide, Don, has been at Airstream for 53 years and bless his heart, knows everything about the place. However, his 40 minute intro included a lot of info about where his desk was when he started at the company and the reasons why the factory isn’t unionized. Because of this, the tour takes almost 2 hours.
- Anyone that shows up gets to go on the tour. That means its very crowded, and although Don had a little microphone:
- You can’t hear anything he says. And I mean that — nothing. From the time we walked into the factory to the time we walked out, I didn’t hear one thing that was said.
- You basically just walk through the factory — and to say its a laid back place is an understatement. Everyone’s just kind of doing their own thing (putting in rivets, making furniture, installing insulation). I honestly pictured a scene similar to the assembly lines you see in car commercials. Not here. That’s not a bad thing at all – the workers seemed generally happy and even a few waved as we passed, but we found it easy to get in their way without much effort. Just be aware as you tour and try to stay in the yellow lines.
I had a great first two days — it’s more fun than I imagined and we’ve gotten the most excitement from getting to know the people we’ve met — Tim and Alice who are parked next to us, Kerri and Russ who are also from Dallas, and especially Sandi Morris who recognized us from our website and came up and introduced herself!